Kindle Tablet

Wanted to write a Kindle Tablet post that covers all the possibilities, and also makes some Kindle Tablet predictions. Well, this is it.

Kindle Tablet – What screen will the Kindle Tablet use?

There are three possibilities -

  1. The practical choice – IPS LCD. It’s what iPad and Nook Color use. It’s battle-tested and reasonably cheap. 
  2. The dream screen – Qualcomm Mirasol. This would blow away every other Tablet when it comes to battery life and ‘new technology appeal’.
  3. The multiple-mode choice – Pixel Qi. The ability to switch between color LCD and transflective LCD is very attractive. However, it just isn’t as sexy (or battery friendly) as Qualcomm Mirasol.

My gut feeling says Qualcomm Mirasol. For one, which one would you rather bet on – a start-up like Pixel Qi or an established giant like Qualcomm. For another, if you want to create a few solid competitive advantages, Qualcomm’s color eInk screen promises to do that exceedingly well.

If it were my call, it’d be IPS LCD as it’s the safe choice – but here’s to hoping we see Amazon take a chance on Qualcomm Mirasol.

Kindle Tablet – What will the Kindle Tablet Release Date be?

This is probably the least thought out section.

  • If using IPS LCD – Summer 2011. Probably July 11th, 2011.
  • If using Qualcomm Mirasol – Winter, 2011. Probably November 17th, 2011.
  • If using Pixel Qi – Very early. Perhaps as early as mid June.

Please do keep in mind that what B&N announces on May 24th might change the ‘announcement date’ and perhaps even the actual ‘Kindle Tablet release date’. If Kindle Tablet uses Qualcomm Mirasol, it’s unlikely to arrive in June or July 2011 – not matter what B&N announces.

How many models of the Kindle Tablet will there be?

Here are the 4 ones that seem most likely -

  1. 5.8″ or 7″ Kindle Tablet with WiFi and Special Offers for $200 to $249.
  2. 5.8″ or 7″ Kindle Tablet with 3G and WiFi and Special offers for $299 to $349.
  3. 10″ Kindle Tablet with WiFi and Special offers for $399 to $499.
  4. 10″ Kindle Tablet with 3G and WiFi and Special offers for $499 to $549. 

The main switches will be – 3G and WiFi vs only WiFi, No Special Offers vs Special Offers, 5.8″/7″ versus 10″. An additional switch is probably IPS LCD vs Qualcomm Mirasol.

That could mean as many as 6 to 10 models. However, for simplicity, Amazon will probably go with 3 or 4 models.

Not adding anything here about different memory sizes because Amazon is unlikely to prevent users from adding extra memory.

Kindle Tablet Price Predictions

Elaborating a bit more on the previous list.

The lowest price Kindle Tablet WiFi model will almost certainly be in the $200 to $250 price range and come with ‘special offers’. Amazon will probably subsidize it heavily as the Special Offers can encompass every single category of goods sold at Amazon. This will literally be the ‘Amazon.com in your hand’ Kindle Tablet.

This model will aim to take over the niche Nook Color is thriving in.

The two highest price Kindle Tablet models will probably be a 10″ Kindle Tablet with 3G and WiFi and Mirasol Qualcomm and a 10″ Kindle Tablet with IPS LCD and 3G and WiFi. These will probably be $550 and $450.

These Kindle Tablet models will aim to take over the entire market of ‘people looking for a quality Tablet who aren’t wedded to Apple’. Note that there is no Android Tablet that has been a huge success in this market and that iPad is very much an option – so Amazon will prioritize quality and new features (like Qualcomm Mirasol) over price.

The Kindle Tablet models in between these two extremes are not very interesting. They will probably serve as contrasting options/choices that make the $200 Kindle Tablet WiFi and the high-end Kindle Tablets more attractive. Amazon might also copy a page out of Apple’s marketing black book and introduce an over-priced top-line Kindle Tablet model at $800 or so – this would provide much lower value for money and would highlight the excellent value for money the lower priced Kindle Tablet models provide.

Kindle Tablet – What App Store will the Kindle Tablet have?

This is only worth discussing because there’s a small possibility Amazon surprises us here.

The consensus opinion is that Amazon is building the Amazon Android App Store as an App Store for its own future Tablets and Phones. However, how many actual apps for tablets does it have?

Amazon might use the existing Amazon Android App Store for Kindle Phone – But would it really use it for Kindle Tablets?

There is a small chance it creates a completely different App Store for Kindle Tablet. Just as Apple has the iPhone App Store and the iPad App Store, we might see a completely separate Tablet App Store for the Kindle Tablet.

How will Kindle Tablet complement Kindles?

Amazon wants to remove its dependency on iPad and Android Tablets for casual readers who want to read on a Tablet device. It sees its customers reading on Kindles at home and in sunlight and on Kindle Tablets at night and when out and about.

Kindle Tablets will take over the role that iPads and rooted Nook Colors are currently playing in the Kindle ecosystem.

Amazon will probably also introduce bundles – $50 off or $100 off if you buy a Kindle Tablet and a Kindle together. Perhaps even a free Kindle with Special Offers if you buy the 10″ Kindle Mirasol Tablet.

Will Kindle Tablet have ‘Special Offers’? Will Kindle Tablet target Groupon and offer Living Social deals?

Yes, there will almost certainly be ‘Special Offer’ variants for a few of the Kindle Tablets. In fact, the lowest priced Kindle Tablet might be available only with ‘Special Offers’.

It’s also a safe guess that Living Social deals (Amazon owns a stake in Living Social) will form a large chunk of the ‘Special Offers’.

You could make a reasonably strong argument that Kindle Tablet’s possible utility as a defence against Groupon and other Daily Deal retailers is one of the top three aims Amazon has in mind for the Kindle Tablet. The first two probably being – direct channel to customers, defence against Apple’s closed ecosystem and Google’s pretend-open ecosystem.

Will Kindle Tablet attack iPad or Nook Color or Android Tablets?

Firstly, let’s leave the major part of the iPad user base out of the equation – the ones who already owned Apple products before they bought the iPad. Amazon is not going to target a customer base that has Apple engrained into its identity.

That leaves two major groups – those just looking for a good Tablet, those looking for a non-Apple Tablet.

These are the groups Amazon will target. Its main competitors will therefore be iPad, Android Tablets, and Nook Color (possibly even a Mirasol powered Nook Color announced on May 24th).

Amazon will have at least two Kindle Tablets – a 5.8″ or 7″ Kindle Tablet to take on Nook Color, and a 10″ Kindle Tablet to take on iPad and 10″ Android Tablets.

Amazon probably understands that it’s unlikely to catch up with Apple on quality and quantity of Tablet apps for a few years (if ever). So, it’s probably going to look for other ways to attract people looking for the best Tablet – quality of hardware, value for money, customer service, etc.

When it comes to people who want a non-iPad Tablet, things get a little murky – Nook Color is selling very well partly because it’s so easy to hack. Not sure whether Amazon will be OK with that. It probably cares a lot more about creating a secure channel to customers than attracting ‘Android is Open’ people.

Amazon will probably start by making something that suits its own existing customers and will then iterate to create models that attract more people – so neither an iPad killer, nor an Android Tablet killer.

How will Kindle Tablet do?

Very well.

It’s a strange prediction to make without knowing what the Kindle Tablet actually is. However, consider the context -

  1. Apple (with a little helping hand from the artificial and stupid restrictions put on netbooks) has created strong demand for tablets.
  2. There are lots of people who do not want the iPad or cannot afford it.
  3. There is no strong non-iPad Tablet except the Nook Color – except it’s actually a reading tablet and not a full Tablet.
  4. Amazon will compete very well on price.
  5. Amazon already has a reasonably good Android App Store – although with a limited number of tablet apps.
  6. Amazon has all the required elements in place – music downloads, movie downloads, cloud infrastructure, huge customer base, a solid brand, solid logistics.
  7. Amazon has the opportunity to study what Apple and B&N and other Tablet making companies did and improve on it.
  8. There is the possibility of introducing new technology – either of Qualcomm Mirasol or Pixel Qi would make the Kindle Tablet pretty impressive.
  9. Amazon has a lot of loyal customers who will take a chance on it. If a $399 Kindle with a first-generation eInk screen managed to sell enough to lead to the current eReader and eBook revolution, you have to imagine a decent Tablet offering would have a good shot at selling millions of units.

In fact, things are so well-aligned you almost worry Amazon will get complacent. You could argue it already has been complacent by letting Apple and B&N get so much of a head-start.

How will Apple and B&N and other Android Tablet makers respond?

Apple won’t do much. Customers will separate themselves into Apple and non-Apple camps and the Apple camp is very safe until Steve Jobs is around.

Apple’s 90%+ ownership of the Tablet space is bound to end. As long as it has 80% or 90% of the profits it couldn’t care less how many packs of diapers Amazon is selling via its Kindle Tablets.

Android Tablet makers (except B&N, discussed separately below) have little clue. They haven’t been able to make a worthwhile Tablet yet and it’s unlikely that in the next 6 to 12 months they will get their act together.

You have to keep in mind that lots of these companies are wedded to making laptops and desktops powered by Windows. You can’t unlearn your core competency. Apple was in a different situation – it had to do something to fight Microsoft. Finding a way to work around Microsoft’s dominance was always in Apple’s heart. None of the other Tablet makers have much incentive to destroy Microsoft’s dominance in desktop and laptop operating systems.

B&N is the dark horse. It’s supposedly selling 800,000 Nook Colors a month. It’s just opened an App Store for Nook Color and has 150 apps. It had a clear path to selling 10 million+ Nook Colors a year. A solid Kindle Tablet threatens that. The only recourse would be to release a much-improved Nook Color 2. Quite frankly, it’s going to be a fascinating contest – Nook Color vs Kindle Tablet from June to November, and then Nook Color 2 vs Kindle Tablet from November 2011 to June 2012.

2011 is going to be the year of Kindle vs Nook. The twist is that there are going to be two very different Kindle vs Nook battles – Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 in eReaders and Kindle Tablet vs Nook Color in Tablets. Who in early 2010 would’ve predicted that the most exciting Tablet War in 2011 would be Kindle vs Nook?

7 Responses

  1. Should be a very interesting year. Looking forward to the new releases!

  2. A question: If Amazon releases a Tablet, then what will happen to Kindle 3 (small size wifi and 3G). Will there be Kindle 4? Possibly not. Possibly Tablet will be K-4? if so, what will happen to K-3? Will the price decrease?

    Suggest of blog post: Kindle Tablet and Kindle Readers: Implications and Next Steps.

    • Thanks for the post idea. There will definitely be a Kindle 4 based on eInk or eInk color.

      Amazon will keep making Kindles.

      Kindle 3 price will come down a bit by end of year due to economies of scale and Nook 2 competition. Will Kindle Tablet play a role? Perhaps. But the price is going to come down anyways.

  3. When is the Apple 30% cut rule supposed to be enforced? Amazon might need/want something in place by then.

  4. Actually Apple does not have separate app stores for iPad and iPhone. They are all under one store and many IPad apps are universal meaning the contain binaries for both versions.

    I think Amazon will go with their existing app store since apps can scale on Android tablets using non tablet apps – though this is not ideal since tablet designed apps take much better advantage of the screen real estate. There aren’t many Android tablet apps yet since the market forces involved with Android tablets have not yet been very successful. Maybe a Amazon tablet will change that.

    Even though I am using an ipad 2 to write this I want a good Amazon tablet in the market to provide competition and providing more people with the tablet expierience.

    • When I open iTunes or the Store there is a Tab at the top that lets you choose iPhone or iPad. They have separate bestseller lists and separate apps that show up.

      Not sure why that doesn’t qualify as a separate store?

      The scaling up experience is terrible. At least it was on iPad for iPhone Apps. Android Apps already aren’t as polished. Last thing Amazon needs is to scale them up and make them look even less pretty.

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